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Four Horsemen Present: Mythic Kingdoms
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/14/2016 04:40:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the "Four Horsemen present"-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1/2 page of editorial, leaving us with 13 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Mythic kingdoms? Do we need the combination of mythic rules and kingdom building rules? My reply here would be a yes: While the kingdom building rules do a great job in simulating the machinations of a regular realm, and while Legendary Games' superb books expanding upon them add aerial and underwater warfare and the like to the fray, it is a fact that the rules do not really account for wars between truly fantastic nations...or a fantastic nation going to war with more mundane civilizations. The question of what happens if Eldorado or Xin-Shalast went to war with mundane realms? You can answer that. Such fabled realms usually have fabled leaders - at the very heart of a mythic kingdom, thus, sit mythic heroes (or villains). The blending of the individual and the kingdom level is as seamless as possible, via two mythic universal path abilities, the 1st tier mythic leader and the 6th tier mythic kingdom; the former affects a settlement you govern, the latter the whole kingdom.

But what are the advantages? Well, you can grant the settlement/kingdom mythic advantages...but these must be paid for with mythic disadvantages. Each of the entries thus features a line to affect settlement and kingdom. And the mythic advantages are AMAZING. I mean...ouch. I get why you need disadvantages to balance them out. If a place, for example, has the army advantage, it receives an army of undead, golems, guardian spirits...that replenishes every day. The only way to defeat it permanently is to eliminate the source of mythic power - i.e. the characters."We were impervious to the darkness, guarded by the ancient protectors, for as long as our kind king rules..." Yeah, this quality alone pretty much writes its own adventure....or even campaign.

The mythic advantages retain this exceedingly impressive level of quality and imaginative potential: Do you want a settlement or place that has the option to magically exile the unwanted? That can be found herein. A blessed holy city/realm to represent the fantasy-equivalent of Jerusalem/Mekka or Prester John's realm? In this pdf. A realm prophesied to become something great? Oh, do you want a city of doors and portals that can be accessed via special keys (mythic magic items also depicted within)? A place that can be returned t via keys? Yeah, if that sounds like this nets you the tools to simulate a war with Sigil...you'd be right. What about a mythic kingdom that seems to move, being hard to find? One with legendary buildings? A repository of vast knowledge? A place with different gravity? Yup. You can making flying kingdoms...or those that bring forth particularly powerful beings by virtue of increased gravity...or a tyrannical realm, where the tyrant's domination literally crushes those under his dominion. Magical planar traits, morphic fey realms, kingdoms that can actually move or those protected from negative influences...yes, this has the means of making a kingdom on...for example the negative energy plane...or making simply the city of brass. Fabulously wealthy or technologically advanced realms similarly lie within the realms (get it? sorry, will punch myself later for that...) possibility.

Now if sword & sorcery, fantasy or pretty much any other literary genre have taught us anything regarding such larger than life nations, then that they also generally tend to have a fatal flaw: Mythic disadvantages are the calamities, the chinks in the resplendent armor of these legendary nations. These, in turn, are no less unique and worthy of storytelling: Some mythic kingdoms may be struck by apathy, a crushing world-weariness; perhaps, the kingdom has been beset by a catastrophe that sent it beneath the surface of the earth...or it suffers from a horrid curse affecting magical objects. Perhaps the very people are cursed...or flow of time or gravity behaves erratically. Dead magic, restless dead stalking the streets, places that are tumbling through the planes...or those simply unnatural - if the advantages are what makes a kingdom presented here awe-inspiring, then these are what makes them grounded, what ultimately makes them an evocative place for adventurers to visit, save or condemn.

Now I already mentioned enhanced structures: Taverns with phantom steeds or ghostly carriages; healing chapels that rid pilgrims of curses - the pdf features a ridiculously simple and concise way of presenting such places. The rules presented comfortably fit on one page, but frankly, are impressive in their elegance. And then, there would be three sample settlements crafted with the rules presented herein: The clockwork fortress of Null, the Dread Necropolis and the planar crossroads that wanted to be the center of ever-changing limbo.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed neither formal, nor rules-language hiccups. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf sports 2 decent full color artworks and one b/w-piece. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Stephen Rowe's Mythic Kingdoms are pretty much everything I hoped they'd be. When the horsemen asked what we'd like to see and I posted "Mythic Kingdoms", I almost immediately regretted it; why? Because I end up disappointed more often than not by the particular execution of a concept near and dear to my heart. It is with some trepidation, but also hope that I opened this pdf; after all, Stephen Rowe is a supremely talented designer.

Well, to cut a long ramble short, he has surpassed himself here. In German, there is the colloquialism of the "eierlegende Wollmilchsau" (literally: Egg-laying Wool-milk-pig) to denote a fantastic tool that does everything at once. Mythic Kingdoms is pretty much the eierlegende Wollmilchsau of the theme, succeeding in phenomenal ways beyond my expectations. It seamlessly stitches the levels of character, settlement and kingdom together, provides a bridge between the mythic character and the kingdom, without losing the importance of the mythic character in question. The advantages and disadvantages both universally resonate with the truly fantastic, taking ample inspiration from mythology. The fact that the respective pieces of content can be applied on both a settlement and kingdom level is similarly amazing. Oh, and, as an aside, the book is exceedingly cool, even if you do not play a mythic game; the advantages and disadvantages, frankly, can be utilized by GMs beyond kingdom-building or mythic game-play to add the sense of the epic to the respective environment.

In short: This is a little masterpiece, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval as well as nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. Whether you want more magical settlements or kingdoms, consider this a must-have purchase.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Mythic Kingdoms
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Griffonport
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/14/2016 04:38:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this pdf with a neat full color map of Griffonport and its bay...and it is a town steeped in history, as we learn about the pact of providing griffons to the prides in exchange for the noble eponymous griffons acting as military steeds...though recently, the horse population's been on the decline, which results in some tensions. Griffonbay island, situated in the bay and erstwhile headquarter of a notorious pirate, has since then become basically an elven embassy, with said pirate missing. Though pro forma part of the nation of Brynndell, Griffonport is, for most intents and purposes, a free city.

The pdf goes on to depict the three noble families and also speak about the covert and overt representations of spiritual life in the guise of the fane of the Grey (or Gray - the pdf is inconsistent here) Maiden, a nasty cult of Shub-Niggurath and a shrine of the sea-goddess. The town comes with its properly formatted settlement statblock as well as with a neat timeline.

Now something that's hard to convey in a review of text alone would be the unique layout of the town: While the aforementioned map is player-friendly and does not contain spoilers, it covers more than the town proper, instead dealing with the whole region of the bay. This increased scope is represented as well in the rest of the pdf, when the respective sub-regions are once again shown on the map, with keyed locations thrown in; in Griffonport proper's case, a total of 10 such locations can be found. There would also be the char district, hewn from gigantic pine trees, it is basically a former logging district that acts as the more shady, externalized neighborhood as well as sawmill, glassworks and similar locales...you know, places that would never represent nasty surprises for adventurers. Ähem. Minor quest notes/ideas can also be found here alongside an "Achemist" who is facing a unique issue...

Between the town and this place, the breaking yards contain horse breeding grounds and are obviously less urbanized than other places...but 9 little rumors help adding some flavor to this region as well. I already mentioned the elven-controlled sping lotus district on the island off the coast...and it features its own cadre of detailed fluff-only NPCs and power-structures, making sure than you can get some additional mileage out of this unique place. Oh, and, once again, we get a couple of rumors.

Beyond that, though, the festival of the lotus is just one of the past-times here - with 4 sample games/parties that PCs may engage in, from the risky Talonspar, in which you use a sick horse to try to lure and capture aerial predators to the board-game runaway.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay - while I noticed a couple of editing glitches that could have easily been caught, I won't complain too much here. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. The artworks featured range from jaw-droppingly beautiful to nice and the cartography, as mentioned, is nice.

Now this town is featured in the Whispers of the Dark Mother mini-AP and, as such, is actually intended as a supplemental material. The cadre of authors (Robert Gresham, Ewan Cummings, Jessica Carson, John C. Rock, Jarret Sigler) could certainly have gone a more conservative route...but instead, we actually get a unique, distinctly fantastic town...for PWYW. And that's a big thing; compared to Brighton, the previous free town by Wayward Rogues Publishing, Griffonport is a distinct step forward. The town is interesting fun and makes, in spite of the editing hiccups here and there, for a worthwhile download that is well-worth leaving a tip for the company. While not perfect, I will gladly settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up due to the PWYW-nature of this book. Take a look at the unique town and judge for yourself!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Griffonport
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Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures: Treeshadow
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/14/2016 04:36:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures series clocks in at 5 pages - the front cover containing the header, creature artwork and the social media icons/homepage of misfit studios. The SRD takes up 1 1/3 pages and the editorial is in a sidebar - to get all the material you thus have to print out the cover with the icons as well.

What is a treeshadow? The simple response would be that it is a particularly nasty CR 4 fey - dubbed dkar'thu in their own language, the resemble dark-skinned, fanged elves that generally choose to live their days as a kind of ambush predator: They merge with trees along well-traveled paths and then burst forth from them to slice mortals to ribbons with their claws, believing themselves to be guardians of feykind...a task entwined with their quasi-religious fervor. When they begin their turn in a tree, they get DR 10/adamantine or cold iron and inflict +2d6 with all attacks; additionally, they do not provoke AoOs from leaving threatened squares when emerging from a tree. Tree merging is a bit of an oddity, ability-wise, since it does not explicitly state an action - this is due to it happening basically at will when the treeshadow ends his movement next to a Large or nigger inanimate (nice catch!) living tree. While thus merged, they retain their flexibility and may still move - but the tree is visually twisted...though this twisting is lessened via prolonged habitation; the longer they wait, the better their camouflage becomes. It should be noted that the base damage (2d6) of their claws is non-standard for their size, which is something purists may scoff at; personally, I can live with that.

As always, we get 3 solid adventure hooks to supplement the critter presented here.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series and while I'm not big on the social icons and dispersal of non-gaming parts through the pdf, from an aesthetic point of view, there is not much to complain about. The pdf comes with the classic Crawthorne-artwork as well as the treeshadow artwork, which is okay, if nothing special The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly iteration, which is nice to see. The book has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Emily Brumfield's treeshadow is an impressive little build: Fey are pretty fragile and making a good skirmishing fey based on melee attacks is a pretty nice feat in itself. The abilities of the monster are connected well internally and leave me, frankly, not with a lot to complain about. For a buck, this is worth getting. 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Crawthorne's Catalog of Creatures: Treeshadow
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Village Backdrop: Macrimei
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/13/2016 09:28:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

Know then, young prince, that in the days of yore, when Atlantis had first sunken into the seas, there was a place called Macrimei, situated amid windswept hills in colder climes, where ruins howl of ages long past, its populace descendants of a once glorious culture, now reduced to a state that is but a shade of their former glory; a place where once towers of ivory pierced the sky, everything looks as though a certain Cimmerian's sandaled feet had cut a swath through the landscape. Into this desolation came the wizard Anazturex with his own private little army of henchmen, dubbed after the strange local deity "Soryan", his Sons of Soryan. It's been years under this small magocratic rule, and nowadays, everyone is barred from the red obelisk where Soryan's supposedly worshipped, as the wizard's tower watches over a village born in ruins.

It is rumored in town, that one day a strange silvery child appeared and subsequently vanished...and the wizard's tower has an odd tendency to disappear for weeks on end, only to suddenly reappear...but to what ends, no one knows. No I could spoil the truth about the wizard's nature and the power of the artifact orb of soryan (which comes with full game-rules/information, just fyi) that is found in the red obelisk...but that would do the village injustice. The former village priest Kulway and Grul, brutal leader of the Sons of Soryan, get full statblocks herein and the sample events provided similarly add to the book...but can the PCs unearth the truth of Macrimei? Oh, and in case you are not too keen on the reveal of the nature of the wizard, an alternative is provided as a designer's suggestion...kudos for going the extra-mile!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

In case my ample allusions to the genre-classics were not ample clue: This village is a perfect bow before the tropes of Swords & Sorcery, a village dripping flavor and atmosphere out of every pore; just as useful in a post-apocalyptic scenario, Macrimei is a fantastic village that manages to evoke the primal sense of the ancient, of decay and ages long past with panache and prose so concise and dense, you feel like you could cut it. While it could just as well be tinted through the shades of high fantasy, unlike most sojourns of PFRPG into the genre, I'd strongly advise against that, for this village backdrop GETS what makes Sword & Sorcery so amazing - it's neither flowery prose, nor the themes...it's the room for growth, for question-marks, the precarious balance of blanks and filled-in information, the tone.

This is a place through which Red Sonja, Kull or Conan could have ridden - so saddle up, adventurers and get a taste of the taste of iron and spice, of dust and lotus and check out this village. If you even remotely like the genre, you will love this village - which btw. also doubles as proof that John Bennett not only excels at writing horror... My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval for one of the strongest entries in the whole series.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Macrimei
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Pirate Adventurers (5E)
Publisher: Tribality Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/13/2016 09:27:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

One issue you'll immediately bump into when playing a pirate campaign in 5e would be that the official backgrounds don't have that much variety to offer; you basically choose sailor. Yeah, that gets a bit old pretty quick when the whole group takes it, right? Well, this little pdf actually features 4 variants of the background: Privateers retain the basic framework, but since they're sailing for a nation, their feature provides friendly shores, where nobles and commoners alike are more likely to accommodate your requests. The ship's surgeon background is slightly more complex, providing a variation of skill proficiencies received, gaining both Investigation and Medicine as well as tool proficiency with Herbalism kits and water vehicles. Similarly, such a kit is part of the starting equipment provided. As a feature, they may use a healer's kit to heal creatures for 1 hit point, but only once per long-rest interval.

Navigators similarly get modified proficiencies: Skill-wise, Nature and Perception, tool-wise Cartographer's tools, navigator's tools and water vehicles. One of the tool kits is part of the starting equipment. As a feature, you cannot become lost while you can see either sun or moon - which is pretty cool! The final background, the explorer, has a story feature that is pretty cool: You are the only one to have returned from a far-off, mythical place - which provides all kinds of cool story-telling options.

The pdf also features 3 new feats: Deck Brawler is only available for those with the sailor background or its variants and lets you increase Str or Dex by 1, to a maximum of 20, provides +2 initiative when standing on something floating on water, climbing doesn't halve your speed anymore and you add your proficiency bonus to any check that involves boarding another vessel. The latter is a bit ambiguous: If the respective action already receives the proficiency bonus, do you add it a second time? I guess that might be the case, but I'm not 100% sure.

The second feat would be Flintlock Expert, which nets proficiency with pistols, doesn't impose disadvantage when using a ranged weapon within a foe that's 5 ft. of you. Additionally, you may use a bonus action to attack with a loaded pistol after attacking with a melee attack. The third feat, Nimble, nets a Dexterity increase, up to a maximum of 20 as well as +1 AC when wearing light or no armor.

The pdf also offers a whole array of new weaponry: Bayonets and belaying pins, boarding axes, dirks, hooks, cutlasses, rapiers and scimitars can be found. The pdf also features a total of 4 martial ranged weapons: Flintlocks, Dragon Pistols, Blunderbusses and Flintlock Muskets. The pdf offers alternate damage outputs for games where guns are rare, which is a nice touch. Both blunderbusses and dragon pistols can alternatively fire cone-spread shots and e.g. attaching or taking off hooks is covered here. On a slightly nitpicky side, the pdf does not mention that the ammunition can't be scavenged after being fired, though that should be pretty obvious. Still, RAW, it can be.

We also get an array of nice items - from astrolabe to eye patches and nautical charts, up to reed breathing tubes, the items provided are cool.

The final section of the pdf introduces a total of 6 shipboard roles: These are relevant only on board of a ship and provide additional options while engaged in naval combat. Some of them have specific prerequisites regarding background or proficiency. Captains may use their bonus action to grant an ally that can see or hear him advantage on their next attack roll, skill check or saving throw, but only once per short rest interval. Additional, via an Int-check as their action, they may find weak spots in enemy vessels, granting advantage to attacks versus the vessel until your next turn.

The quartermaster may use his action to choose a crew member within 60 feet, granting said member advantage on the next attack, skill check or saving throw - this guy does not have the captain's 1/rest interval-limit, though. Pilots can make Dex-checks to impose disadvantage on attacks versus their vessel until their next turn, but only once per rest interval. The Boatswain may use his action to supervise ship repairs, recovering 1d4 + level hit points for the vessel. Master Gunners may use their action to fire all guns on one side of the ship at the same time, foregoing the usual turns. One attack roll is made for all cannons, with advantage. On a miss, the broadside still inflicts half damage. The Ship's Surgeon, finally, may revive crew members via DC 10 Wisdom (Medicine) checks, with two options provided for different degrees of abstraction - nice!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant issues in either rules-language or formal criteria. Layout adheres to Tribality Publishing's elegant 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports thematically fitting photography as art...which frankly works surprisingly well! The pdf has no bookmarks, but at the short length, needs none.

Shawn Ellsworth's little toolkit is well-crafted; the options presented are a significant step up and render depicting naval combat in 5e significantly more rewarding. My complaints pertaining this pdf should thus be taken as slightly nitpicky, not true detractors: As a brief file, it doesn't offer full background goal, personality trait, ideal, etc. options for the variant backgrounds - these may be dressing only, but I rather like them. The ammunition-scavenging component is another minor hiccup in my book. My third complaint would pertain the ship roles: I LOVE them. I really do. That being said, I think they would be even more rewarding if each featured at least two options...or options to further upgrade them via feats or the like.

That being said, all of these complaints boil ultimately down to the scope of this humble pdf: What it manages to portray in its scant few pages is impressive and deserves being acknowledged. It also was one of Tribality Publishing's first offerings, which makes it even more remarkable and means that it gets a bit of leeway.

How to rate this, then? Well, I don't consider this perfect, but for the very fair price-point, this is well worth getting...and I hope to see the theme expanded at some point in the future! My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pirate Adventurers (5E)
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Parapsychologist, Hybrid Class
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/13/2016 09:23:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The parapyschologist class presented here receives d6 HD, proficiency with club, dagger, heavy crossbow, light crossbow, quarterstaff and no armors or shields, which hamper spellcasting. The class gets 3/4 BAB-progression, good Will-saves and his spellcasting is governed by Intelligence, but oddly is spontaneous, not prepared. The class has its very own and exceedingly detailed spell list, just fyi. They gain Eschew Materials at 1st level, though the class still sports a reference to "sorceror" in a ccp-glitch here.

Also at 1st level, the class gains the foresight ability: At first level, you may, at the start of your turn, roll a d20 and then substitute the rolled result for any d20 roll you need to make until your next turn. This can be used 3 + Int-mod times per day. Starting at 8th level, you may generate a 30-ft.-aura that either nets +2 to ability & skill checks, atk, CL-checks and saving throws for allies or inflict the same amount as a penalty. In another cut-copy-paste glitch, the ability refers to the wizard.

Parapsychology would be another interesting ability gained at first level and allows you to treat insanity: For each day spent treating the target, you roll a Diplomacy skill check versus the insanity's DC. ON a success, the recipient of your care may reroll a Will-save. On a success, the DC of the insanity is reduced by a number of points equal to the target's Charisma modifier, minimum 1. If an insanity is thus reduced to DC 0, it is cured. Additionally, subjects suffering from the effects of the insanity spell (not properly italicized), they may shake off its effects as though hit by greater restoration - again, not properly italicized.

Also at first level, the class gains the ability to execute mind blasts - either healing or harming ones and once the choice is made, it cannot be reversed. This is basically a variant of channel energy, with a range of 30 ft. and a base damage/heal of 2d6, +1d6 for every level beyond 3rd. It is, however, governed by Intelligence and also may be used 3 + Int-mod times per day.

7th level nets 1/day telekinesis (again, not properly formatted) "without expending a spell slot to do so." - which is wrong wording for SPs. 12th level increases that to 2/day and 15th level nets that AT WILL. Sure, 15th level...but still. That's very powerful. 9th level nets 1/day Lesser Astral Projection, which is upgraded to 2/day at 14th level and at-will at 18th level. As a capstone, a parapsychologist may return to a completely new body from the dead, provided he is willing and some tiny fragment of his still remains in the mortal realms. This process generates an entirely new, young adult body - which is somewhat problematic, considering the effective immortality it provides. As another minor nitpick, the wording here refers to reincarnation, which is its own technical term in pathfinder and as such, a bit loaded. But that remains mostly cosmetic.

The pdf concludes with a recap of insanity rules as well as the 5 classics: Amnesia, Mania/Phobia, MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder), Paranoia and Psychosis. I don't have much to complain here, apart from the formatting - spells, when referenced, as throughout the book, are not properly formatted and nor are the "headers" like "Type", "Onset", etc. It should be noted that these basically are only cut-copy-paste iterations of the information from the Gamemaster's Guide.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay on a general level; formatting on a rules-level shows that this was the freshman offering of Wayward Rogues Publishing and shows significant discrepancies from the standard. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the artworks provided are solid, though the interior art is stock. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

The parapsychologist is basically a blend of cleric and arcane caster; it has some healing capabilities, which is nice. It also has a lot of the issues you can observe in freshman offerings: The class, as presented, is pretty front-heavy, gaining basically all interesting abilities at 1st level. The mindblast ability fails to specify that it employs positive or negative energy, thus making interaction with critters, etc. problematic. The class is also very centered on one attribute, namely Int - everything's governed by it, which is in contradiction to the balance of the cleric's channel energy, which employs a different attribute. At high levels, infinite telekinesis is overkill.

And then there would be the elephant in the room: Pretty much everything the class offers is a reskin of an existing ability that makes it either work less reliably (as in the example of mindblast)...or just represents a cut-copy-paste job that wasn't even purged of the original class it referenced: The foresight abilities, for example, are straight ccps from the wizard school of the same name. This class is a hybrid class in that it represents a Frankenstein-conglomerate of parts smashed together...and there'd be value in that, if the balancing was impeccable. Well, it's not. Even considering the freshman offering bonus I tend to dish out, I can't find any real value in this pdf apart from the convenience of not having to smash spell-lists together. Other than that, I don't see any feasible reason to get this pdf, as loathe as I'm to say it. It's not horrible...but considering the amount of cooler classes out there, my final verdict will hence clock in at 2 stars, in spite of liking the sparse fluff/theme of the class.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Parapsychologist, Hybrid Class
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Hypercorps 2099 Wasteland: Primer
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/13/2016 09:21:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This free primer for the Hypercorps 2099 post-apocalyptic book clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The pdf begins with a new primal path for the barbarian, the radraider: At 3rd level, these guys become immune to radiation while raging and 6th level nets immunity to the poisoned condition as well as resistance to poison damage. Additionally, it lets you suspend the charmed or frightened conditions for the duration of a rage entered. At 10th level, as long as you have an irradiation score of 7+, you can detonate as an action, inflicting 2d4 fire and radiant damage per point of proficiency bonus to all within 15 ft. As a minor nitpick, the ability does not specify its shape beyond "all within", but that's cosmetic. The powerful burst reduces your irradiation to 0 and nets exhaustion levels after finishing a rage, so just spamming this while irradiating yourself will kill you. 14th level allows for Constitution saves to potentially negate exhaustion thus incurred.

The next page provides 3 new backgrounds: Alien Abductee, Shlter Captain and Shelter Dweller -all generally are solid, though none feature the extenisve goals etc. tables...at least herein. Two of them btw. tie into the Luck and Reputation ability scores introduced in Hypercorps 2099 - and fyi: The author told me that all pertaining information will be in the finished book, so no, you do not need Hypercorps 2099 to make use of these.

3 items can be found here as well, from the iodine pill to geiger counter and lead-lined backpack. The system also introduces the Science and Technology skills, both of which are tied to Intelligence. The skills note which classes add them and which backgrounds may replace one they offer with these.

Radiation rules can also be found herein, with 11 levels of radiation provides, with progressively more volatile influences: And magic does not take well to magic. The table is pretty cool and useful and certainly warrants downloading the pdf as a nice piece of hazard material, even if you do not plan on using the totality of the book.

Speaking of radiation: The book does provide the cliff notes version of the irradiated attribute: This special attribute starts at 0 and is increased by exposure, decreased by staying away from radiation for 1 week. Radiation makes you more resilient to magic, but also has the damage (or perk) of potentially aligning you with a forced progression in a freak class (pretty interested to see that in play!) and cause all matter of unpleasantness.

The pdf also features new critters: Brain Slug and the slug-brained template will make fans of Futurama chuckle with glee; a sample wastelander afflicted is btw. also included. Similarly, the irradiated template and the sample bear included are interesting. The purple people eater plant is irradiated nightmare fodder...and yep, there's a walker. Think of these as fast rage zombies. Ouch. These include racial traits, since exposure to a ton of radiation may cause you to become one, but, as a whole, they look VERY strong; I can't judge on whether they work out in the context of the book or not balance-wise, but I'd strongly discourage non-Hypercrops 2099 Wasteland-rounds to allow this one: It has a ton of resistances and immunities.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good. Layout adheres to a mix of one-column and 2-column full-color standards and the pdf sports a solid mixture of stock and original art. From an aesthetic point of view, layout is very busy - but whether you like that or not is a matter of taste. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment.

Mike Myler's Wasteland Primer is better than that for the first Hypercorps book; while I cannot judge the balance of the components adequately until the final book is released, this one actually does have content to scavenge and entice; even without using the book, the radiation table makes for a cool hazard to implement. That and the critters make sure that you get your time's worth for downloading the file, even if you don't end up using it. This is a well-crafted teaser, considerate of the downloading gamer while showcasing several aspects that may cause you to take a closer look - and considering that it's FREE, I will hence settle on a final verdict of 5 stars - download it, take a look and if you like what you see, support the KS.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hypercorps 2099 Wasteland: Primer
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Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/12/2016 07:34:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This gargantuan tome of monsters clocks in at a massive 433 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial/thanks, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with a mind-boggling 424 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review is based on the second version of the book and was moved up in my review queue at the request of numerous readers.

Well, wait...before we do, please bear with me as I embark on a little tangent. As I'm typing this, D&D 5e is a relatively young system, a phenomenon I like to call "B1BS" - Bland 1st Bestiary Syndrome. I have seen A LOT of first bestiaries for various editions and they, obviously, have to cover the classic basics. Unfortunately, that also means that they tend to bore the hell out of me. Yes, I need my dragons, devils, etc. in a new gaming system and these books cover exactly that...but still. Call me monster-hipster or discerning connoisseur, but ultimately, it is the second, the third bestiary I'm looking more forward to...or the 3pp bestiaries. Here, you can usually find the uncommon, the strange and the weird. It is hence I look forward to the first big 3pp-bestiaries with a mix of anticipation and trepidation.

Traditionally, there is one downside to big 3pp-bestiaries: Budget. 3pps usually don't have the budget for a ton of expensive artworks or, if they want to get a book of these proportions done close to the system's infancy, lack the time for making all the critters utterly unique in abilities and tricks. there are exceptions to this rule, obviously, but particularly in a system's infancy, separating the wheat from the chaff is pretty difficult.

Well, the first thing you'll note when flipping open this book would be that Kobold Press obviously did have the budget thanks to the KS that powered this: The Tome of Beast is chock-full with a gigantic array of absolutely stunning full-color artwork, making it frankly one of the most beautiful bestiaries I have read by any publisher. Yes, I actually consider this book to be more aesthetically pleasing than Pathfinder's first bestiary or the 5e Monster Manual.

The second problem mentioned, at least concept-wise, is a non-entity of an issue as well: You see, Kobold Press has years upon years of evocative critters released for 3.5, 4th edition, Pathfinder, 13th Age...add to that the rich lore of the various Midgard supplements and you have a gigantic panorama of mythologies and concepts to build upon...and at least as far as I'm concerned, context has always made it easier to design critters for me. So the ideas already are there, just awaiting their mechanical representation.

That is not to say that this book contains only previously released critters, mind you - quite the contrary is the fact, actually! There are a ton of creatures contained in this massive book that have not been seen before. There is a reason for this scope: The massive mythology established for the Midgard campaign setting is defined partially by the gigantic assortment of creatures one can encounter there. Once again, this does not mean that the book is in any way tied to the system: While numerous little boxes and side-bars elaborate upon and contextualize the respective adversaries, this book can be considered to be very much campaign setting agnostic, although Midgard's themes obviously do influence the type of creatures you can find within these pages.

The relative prominence of fey, to name a creature type, is a direct result of the canon established for the setting. Even beyond the confines of the setting, this canon can be considered to be an inspiration for the GM - when e.g. fey lords and ladies begin their entries by first establishing a massive array of fluff regarding their positions, including obvious adventure hooks, the book does shine. Speaking of which: From the challenge 8 Bear Lord to the legendary Lord of the Hunt to the Queen of Night and Magic or the River King, these beings not only are beautifully portrayed, they also make excellent use of several of 5e's peculiarities: Legendary actions, lair actions and the like supplement these powerful entities...and the book also features regional effects: The areas in the vicinity of the fey lords start behaving in unique ways: The region containing the river king, for example, provides abundant fishing, but also makes streams strong and erratic as well as increasing the chance of rain and thunderstorms. The powerful entity thus makes his presence felt, merely by...well, being present.

This is as great a time as any to speak about one crucial feat that this book manages: Beyond being a massive collection of creatures, the book actually manages to unlock several of the absolutely legendary modules from Kobold Press' catalog for D&D 5e. While conversion into the system is pretty easy, it is ultimately classes and monsters that are hardest to adapt; GMs seeking to convert some of the ever-green gems released for other systems thus have a crucial work load taken off their shoulders...and, considering the absolutely stunning artworks suffusing this book, they also get the bonus of having a great visual representation of the iconic foes. (5e GMs: Seriously consider getting "Courts of the Shadow Fey" - it's frankly one of the most unique, amazing modules I know and with this book, conversion is dead simple for experienced GMs). That only as an aside. And yes, the Snow Queen is in this book. Told you there are a ton of new creatures inside!

Now another issue bestiaries of this size face would be that different people expect different things from bestiaries and striking the right balance between those needs can be challenging. Let's face it, we gamers are an opinionated bunch: Take e.g. the owlbear or flumph - ask 10 gamers what they think about these classics and you'll get vastly diverging opinions. Two of my players absolutely love these two, while 2 others immediately start groaning whenever I use these foes. As such, opinions will diverge when faced with e.g. an oozasis/mockmire - gargantuan, intelligent ooze that sports the option to implant compulsions in those that partake from its waters or fruits, a thing that can actually emit vapors that manipulate the emotional status of creatures nearby. The serpent/leopard hybrid serpopard would be an actually cool magical hybrid creature that I can see becoming a classic.

So beyond the fey and such creatures, one aspect I always loved about Midgard (and Southlands) is that the books manage to quote real world mythology and add this distinct, Midgardian spin to everything, generating an internally concise mythology of a fantastic earth-like environment that kinda could have been...if the world was steeped in magic, flat, and surrounded by the world-serpent...but you get my drift. The adaption of such themes also does not take the usual, Tolkienesque/Anglo-Saxon focus you can usually find in RPG-bestiaries, instead drinking deeply from the wells of Germanic, Slavic and Norse mythologies as well as from sources beyond the ken of many a designer.

You know, before Tolkien pretty much defined the basic assumptions we have for the type of fantasy we play in, the world did not sit idle and research can unearth a vast panorama of fantastic sources from far before the time of the venerable professor. Christian medieval mythology, for example, still features the accounts of Prester John, fabled ruler of the Nestorian nation, a legend sprung from the missionary endeavors of Thomas the Apostle, who supposedly ruled over a land of immortal and wondrous creatures. Back then, this realm was considered to be possible...and while we now know that the realm as depicted in the sources does not exist, the mythology it created, with for example the blemmyes, who have no head and wear their face on their breasts, still resonates to this date. To the uninformed, they may constitute a nice, if a bit weird adversary; to those in the know, they represent a type of fantasy all too often neglected.

But perhaps you do not share my fascination with obscure mythologies and fantastic flights of fancy of ages gone by; perhaps your particular taste hearkens closer to the horrific, rendering you dissatisfied with the creatures featured in the Monster Manual that fulfill said niche. Rest assured that aficionados of Lovecraftiana will find some much-needed beings herein: The Folk of Leng, prominently featured in many a current module and timeless classics like the Shoggoth are contained within the pages of these tome as well, once again taking a lot of work off your hands. And, before you ask: Yes, shoggoths may absorb flesh; yes, they emit a mind-shattering piping. While we're talking about the darker creatures within these pages: There would be an undead, exceedingly hard to destroy aboleth variant within...and the fiends presented in this book are...well, fiendish.

Really fiendish. Not in the "kinda weird-looking humanoid"-kind of way; there are some beings here that truly are unique: Take the Soul Eater: These things look like basically a Medium-sized crab with humanoid arms, but from their back rises a horrid, blue-ish mess of almost Giger-esque proportions, sporting hundreds of pupil-less, red eyes. Classic creatures or creature types are not simply depicted - they are lovingly introduced. Take the sphinx herein: It actually comes with 11 classic riddles.

Does one of your players suffer from a mild arachnophobia? Well, this book actually contains several delightful arachnids, from the Spiders of Leng (obviously...where the folk are...) to the J'ba Fofi, the research was well-made; the latter, just fyi, is most commonly known as a cryptozoological creature, here with a unique angle beyond its origins in our world. Speaking of unique angle: There are beings within this book that have sprung from an imagination I can only applaud: One of my favorites would be the suturefly: It is said that these pests are the reason for forest folk not speaking much. They, or so goes the legend, lurk and wait for someone speaking lies, only to proceed to sew shut the mouth, nose or eyes of an offender who commits blasphemy, which these beings can sense. Tiny, yet exceedingly flavorful, these things feel like they could have come from the mythologies of our world, though at least to my knowledge, they very much are an original creation...or at least are so obscure I never even heard of them. I love this critter, though, much like many a being herein, the beasts herein are challenging foes - if your players are like mine and are experienced roleplayers, the adversaries herein certainly will make them work for their XP.

Let's e.g. take a look at the mascot of Kobold Press, the small but fierce kobolds featured herein - 3 such huamnoids are presented, the kobold alchemist, chieftain and trapsmith, all of which are not simply variants and instead feature unique tricks at their disposal. The least powerful one, the trapsmith, features a challenge of 1 and has a hefty 36 hit points at his disposal, which means that, yes, if you expect an array of easily slaughtered mooks, then this would represent one of the few things this pdf does not deliver...and in my opinion, that's a good thing. Throwing a mook at players is something most experienced GMs can easily accomplish and not something you usually buy bestiaries for- at least I don't. Instead, I get such books for evocative beings and unique mechanical tricks - and in that aspect, the respective humanoids tend to deliver in spades. Aforementioned trapsmith's statblock, for example, features no less than 4 sample traps! Now if you are a relatively new GM and concerned about perhaps throwing too strong creatures at your players, do note that the beings in this tome, oriented after the official DMG's guidelines regarding HP per challenge. The MM itself does not seem to follow that guideline, so yes, the beings herein tend to be slightly stronger. That being said, the book does an excellent job of pointing towards potentially problematic options in sidebars and the like: When a creature has a detonate-style final parting shot, it talks about how to use this without screwing the players over; in the example of the trapsmith, consideration is given for the number of traps previously placed. It may be a little thing, but it certainly is something new GMs and players will appreciate.

One of the more prevalent complaints I have heard about the MM would be the relative dearth of proper, high-challenge boss-adversaries. The Tome of Beasts delivers in spades here: Beyond aforementioned fey lords and ladies, arch-devils like Mammon, Arbeyach or the scribe of hell Totivillus (renamed due to some immature people taking offense with his previous name Titivillus...), the book certainly offers some seriously powerful endgame adversaries. One of my further nitpicks would pertain one of these guys, though: At challenge 27, Mechuiti, baboon-faced demon lord of cannibals is a cool build per se...but ultimately, with baboon-face and area of expertise, he does feel a bit like a Demogorgon-ripoff; further emphasizing the pseudo-Mayan nomenclature in flavor would have helped in further distinguishing...but perhaps that was not intended and the being just intended as a means to bypass the closed IP of ole' demogorgy. Why am I harping on this poor demon lord? Well, because the rendition of his fellow Camazotz is significantly more steeped in mythology and ultimately, more interesting. Yeah, I know, I pretty much grasping at straws regarding things to complain about. A similar creature obviously intended to unlock something classic would be the wormhearted suffragan - basically an undead worm-that-walks, which fans of old Kyuss certainly should appreciate. And yes, the guy features a nasty worm-affliction, though, alas, no animation of the dead...though you can easily add that aspect.

Another target demographic, obviously, would be guys that share a bit of a sensibility like yours truly: At one point, I simply started getting bored with the more classic fantastical creatures and wanted something radically different - the book does deliver in that regard as well: Take the tusked skyfish: A jellyfish like, flying entity with massive tusks and the option to spray adversaries with skunk-like stench-spray. Or the skein witch: Androgynous humanoids mummified in diamond thread that feature translucent skin - inside, they do not have organs, but rather dozens of quivering hourglasses. Bending and distorting fate, these weird beings have the abilities to supplement their unique tricks.

That is not to say, however, that the creatures contained herein that deliver the traditional niches are boring, mind you: I certainly want to throw a mithral dragon at my players and both steam and smaragdine golems feature enough unique mechanics: The latter is driven by a boiler and extinguishing the fire can shut it down - clever PCs will try to make use of that. Speaking of clever: Yes, the steam golem's ability actually talks about what happens if a water elemental and the critter clash. A small note, for sure - but something most assuredly appreciated. The by now classic darakhul, the intelligent, militaristic ghouls of the underworld or mighty jotun giants similarly feature evocative mechanics - the latter would be as good a place as any to come full circle regarding the mythological aspect, for the book does something smart: Instead of trying to fill so far unreleased monster-niches that will be filled (sooner or later rendering the fill-in obsolete), the book instead focuses on providing the means to employ a creature's themes, but with a distinct identity.

Were you, for example, sad to see that the MM had neither a siren, nor a nymph of similar stand-in? With the evil abominable beauty and the lorelei, we do find creatures that can fit these roles, while still maintaining a unique identity of their own. The beauty, for example, has a touch that burns you and a voice that deafens, setting her clearly apart from the spellcasting focus of the classic nymph. Have I mentioned Baba Yaga's horsemen? As a fan of swarms, I was also pretty excited to see several of these featured within this massive tome...and as a huge fan of Norse culture and mythology and their twist in Midgard, I was happy to actually see Boreas in these pages. Winter is coming.

Deadly butterflies, gigantic serpents, simian demons with diseased ichors and a demonic representation of none other than German legend Rübezahl (interesting - I would have made him a feylord) and a selection of 3 dinosaurs should also make fans of Sword & Sorcery-style fantasy pretty happy with this huge book. Have I mentioned the time-travelling eonic drifters or the edimmu? Design philosophy-wise, the book also retains a sense of believability regarding the nature of the respective builds: Animals are efficient; the gearforged and similar created are obviously made with functions - it is a subtle thing, but one that is a mark of good monster design. The theme of death and related abilities also extend to the undead....and while I like a lot of them herein, it is perhaps the one creature category that feels a bit less inspired than the rest; there are slightly too many "undead ied to x, that's why he does x"-type of creatures herein...but perhaps I am simply spoiled in that regard. To note a positive exception here: Shadow vampires are actually fiends and, for an incorporeal drain-y creature (of which I have literally seen more than 100 over the years), it does its job relatively well.

Now, I could continue rambling on about creatures herein and bloat this review further, but I believe you should, by now, have a solid grasp on what the book offers. There is, for example, a mini-NPC-codex with generic adversaries in the back, with black knights gaining fear-inducing charges, disarming city watch captains and the like providing some supporting role material. A table contains ability modifiers and features for uncommon races, if you require a quick and dirty "change race"-table. The book also contains a massive 2-page list of monster by challenge rating - and from several 1/8 creatures to 27, you'll have more than enough fodder at pretty much every level. One slightly unpleasant complaint here: Monsters grouped by type and terrain would have made for great additions to this book and help regarding navigation and user-friendliness if you need associated creatures on the fly.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting of the 2nd edition are impressive for a crunch-book of this size. As a whole, the quality of prose and statblocks is pretty impressive, considering the size of this tome. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the book sports one of the highest concentrations of amazing full-color artworks I have seen in any book. While fans of Kobold Press may know some of these from previous books, there are a ton of completely new artworks herein as well. As a further bonus, aesthetics-wise, the book actually has a unified look regarding the artworks. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks - good! While I have held the physical version of the book, a massive hardcover, I do not own it. If my memory doesn't deceive me, then its spine was less thick than that of e.g. the Southlands book, so not sure how well it will survive in the long run. I do remember that the print quality per se was very high, though.

A metric ton of people worked on this: Dan Dillon, Chris Harris, Rodrigo Garcia Carmona, Wolfgang Baur, William Ryan Carden, Christopher Carlson, Michael John Conrad, James L- Crawford, Christopher Delvo, Matthew F. Dowd, Timothy Eagon, Matthew Eyman, Robert Fairbanks, David Gibson, Chrsitopher Gilliford, John Henzel, Jeremy Hochhalter, Michael Holland, Ben Iglauer, James Introcaso, Dan Layman-Kennedy, Christopher Lockey, Maximillian Maier, Greg marks, Dave Olson, Richard Pett, Marc Radle, Jon Sawatsky, Ryan Shatford, Troy E. Taylor, Andrew Teheran, Jorge A. Torres, Darius Uknius, Sersa Victory, Ben Wertz.

That is a LOT of different voices, which is which I'd like to mention the unsung heroes of the book: - Developer Steve Winter, editors Peter Hogan, Wade Rockett and Wolfgang Baur and proofing by Dan Dillon are what ultimately could have been a mess regarding the different power-levels and qualities of creatures and forged the book into a concise, remarkable whole.

So, should you get this book? To cut a long ramble short: YES! The second edition of Tome of Beasts is an amazing, massive collection of creatures that, in imagination and execution, is full of creatures that is on par and exceeds the best the Monster Manual has to offer. That being said, depending on how nitpicky you are, there is something you should be aware off: The book does have a 6-page errata. Traditionally, I do not take these into account and only count actual updates to the respective book. That being said, even if I disregard these (changes include e.g. a reference to "ability damage" being changed to "...Strength reduced. A creature with 0 Strength dies." Depending on how nitpicky you are, that may well annoy you. Condition/damage immunity poison(ed) have been forgotten a couple of times; there's a reference to "Diminutive" that should be "Tiny." What I'm trying to show you here, frankly, is the extent of the hiccups and give you an impression of whether they would annoy you.

It should, however, be noted, that, as a whole, the book is TIGHT. Personally, even disregarding the errata, I most certainly have found more creatures I want to use within these pages than in pretty much all early-edition bestiaries before. Beyond the fact that this "unlocks" a ton of amazing Kobold Press books with its creatures, the emphasis on the unique critters herein also means that it will not be rendered obsolete as soon as the next MM comes around - instead, it is a titanic collection of gorgeous creatures that should be considered to be pretty much a must-have purchase for 5e-groups and monster designers alike; in spite of the minor hiccups herein, the totality of the creatures herein must be considered to be superb, evocative and suffused by the stuff of myths. In short: If I had to get rid of one 5e monster book and my choices were this and the MM, I'd throw the MM out of the window faster than you can say "Liosalfar." (Yep, these delightfully creepy guys are in the book as well...)

So yes, this massive tome is very much worth the asking price and makes for a superb purchase - and I'd be surprised if I saw any 5e-monster book anytime soon that manages to beat this. In the end, my final verdict, in spite of the hiccups mentioned, will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and this also receives the nomination for my Top Ten of 2016.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition
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Warpriest: Zeal
Publisher: Forest Guardian Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/12/2016 07:22:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for the Warpriest class clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content - quite a bunch for the low price point, so let's take a look!

So...obviously the author of this pdf was as underwhelmed as I was when it came to the precise effects of what fervor does - sure, it's mechanically feasible to heal/harm and swift cast...but that isn't really what one associates with "fervor", right? Thus, this pdf introduces a significant, dare I say, huge, array of options to widen the scope of fervor's application. The revised fervor presented herein can be used 1/2 class level + Wisdom modifier timer per day. At 2nd level, the warpriest may select a number of fervor options equal to 1 + his Wisdom modifier, minimum 1. At 4th level and every three levels thereafter, a new option may be selected and one fervor may also be reassigned. Unless otherwise noted, fervor's activation is a swift action and Fervor Casting and Fervor Heal/Harm are now options that you need to take if you want them. Since you'd be a sucky warpriest with only Wisdom modifier +1, you'd probably get these if you wanted to...which means you get more. And the warpriest is not a weak class, so I'd usually be screaming OP right now...but the book frankly acknowledges that, while it wishes to go into breadth rather than depth, the flexibility does represent a increase in power - thus, the pdf proposes two alternate means of balancing the options herein: Basically, offering them either as an alternative for regular feats or for the bonus feats of the class - both of which are feasible options and balancing suggestions that should leave every group happy. Kudos for addressing table variation to this extent!

But what do the fervor options actually do? Well, we'd for example have an immediate action option to gain a +2 bonus to critical hit confirmation rolls, which is then maintained for Wisdom modifier rounds. There would be a 10 ft. aura that grants bonuses to saves versus fear and emotion effects, with the bonuses thankfully scaling. We can choose a pseudo smite that adds 1 + Wis-mod to damage and ignores 1/2 class level DR...and then there would be the option to receive no damage on a save that would otherwise net half damage - basically omni-evasion. And this is where the issue with this pdf comes in: Notice something there? The options are precise and flavorful, but frankly, some of them should have a minimum level. Yes, they employ a limited resource...but this still is better than comparable abilities...on its own. Add the offensive tricks and...well...you start really wanting some differentiation here. Similarly, +1 attack at full BAB against a foe adjacent to the one hit is pretty much a central class feature, not something you get passing by, even if you take -2 to AC for one round if you don't expend an additional fervor - this is cleave sans the standard action limitation...and how would those interact? It goes on. You can expend two fervor to ignore one attack of opportunity. Only one per round, but still. Compare that to adding +1d6 to a skill check...where's the relation? Don't get me started on no longer being limited to fervor spells with a range of personal to cast as a swift action...

Btw.: Additional attack sans penalty versus the same foe can be found - but that one has a 10th level minimum requirement. +Wis-mod to a save can also be gained. The internal balance is pretty askew, when you compare that to Wis-mod damage when using channel versus a foe with a detrimental condition. Taking 10 on skill checks or gaining + Wis-mod to concentration may be neat, but again, is not as strong as the aforementioned options. Adding minor buffs to those healed, increasing channel energy's potency and better fighting capability versus invisible targets make sense. I am also okay with a sacred weapon power-increase for a limited duration, retroactive sacred weapon damage die addition to atk makes for a swingy, if interesting mechanic to hit foes you missed. Higher blessing DCs or somewhat grit-like passive benefits that you gain while you have at least one fervor make sense. Lending sacred weapon damage dice to allies similarly makes sense, as does close-range free action picking up of sacred weapons (should probably explicitly state that it provokes no AoO) - though you can see once again that the power level oscillates wildly. Shooting into melee? Sure, increase speed? Again, makes sense. Ignore armor check penalty for a couple of rounds? Heck yes, and penalizing the critical conformation rolls of foes similarly feels thematically appropriate. Short-time suspension of negative condition also works.

For one fervor, you can prepare and cast a spell of alignment opposed to your own - which sounds nice, but RAW, the pdf makes it look like the casting and preparation is a free action. Slightly cleaner wording would be in order here. Switching channeled energy is a neat trick, as is reversal of healing/damage-causing for living and undead. Ranged weapon deflection makes sense, though minor bonuses to saves look odd, compared to similar other abilities herein that are more powerful. Denying flanking bonuses? Yep, can see that. Basically pounce with two sacred weapons (standard action instead of full-round) sans the usual level requirement and feat investment? Pretty much OP, even before the option to use one damage die for both. Then again, gaining DR versus an attack that's incoming...yeah, why not? Better sundering, higher carrying capacity, remaining conscious? I can see those. Adding another physical damage type to a sacred weapon similarly makes sense, as does mitigating the penalty for attacking adjacent foes with reach weapons.

These discrepancies are all the more galling, since the pdf does feature some nice mechanical ideas: Like "locking" a damage die roll with sacred weapon for 1 + Wis-mod rounds, inflicting this damage all the time. Or gaining Wis-mod to flat-footed AC, but not regular AC (divine providence!).

The pdf also has an optional feat suggestion to use blessings and fervor interchangeably. If you're using this book as written - I'd strongly urge you to refrain from doing so.

The pdf also contains a warpriest archetype, the bastion, who gains +1 hit point per die when determining hit points - effectively, he has 1d8 +1 HD. At first level, these guys may designate one character as the ward as a swift action - this character needs to be a cleric, paladin, inquisitor, druid or warpriest of the same deity. Oracles don't seem to qualify. A bastion may have one such ward and while adjacent to the ward, said character gains a sacred (or profane) bonus on ALL Wis- and Cha-based skill-checks equal to 1/2 the bastion's class level (!!!) as well as +1 to AC and CMD, +1 at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. This bonus can be maintained while the ward remains in reach of the bastion's weapon.

Here, things get odd: "If the ward is a divine spellcaster (defined as antipala, cleric, druid, inquisitor, oracle, paladin or warpriest), the ward also gains the bastion's Wis-mod to concentration and1/2 the bastion's class level to Knowledge (religion) and Spellcraft. Is that IN ADDITION to the already huge skill bonuses? Also: Why are the oracle and antipaladin in there suddenly? As an immediate action, the bastion may roll Fortitude or Reflex saves on behalf of the ward. On a success, the ward saves, on a failure, the bastion receives the full effect. For one fervor, he can grant himself +2 to this save. Additionally, 1/day, the bastion may sacrifice up to class level + Wisdom modifier to grant the ward said amount of temporary hit points that last until depleted. This ability replaces blessing. Also at first level, the bastion receives Combat Reflexes, using Wis instead of Dex to calculate AoOs gained. Attacks performed thus receive a bonus when targeting a creature adjacent to the ward, with the bonuses scaling. If the archetype so far looks incredibly OP...there's a reason for that. The bastion may, at 4th level and every 3 levels after that choose an extra fervor option and may choose these in place of bonus feats as well...and loses spellcasting and orisons. There you go.

2nd level allows the bastion to increase spells cast by his ward within 30 ft of him via fervor. 4th level means a bastion will not fall unconscious while his ward is conscious and 4th level also locks him into selecting fervor heal, if he has not done so already. Fervor heal heals the ward for 1d6 per every even class level and the bastion may, if his ward is also a warpriest, grant him fervor on a 2 for 1 basis with a unique fervor option. The pdf includes a feat for an additional ward. Blood Fervor is surprisingly awesome : It cannot be kitten-abused, thank the 7 heavens, and lets you regain fervor for defeating foes of at least 1/2 your HD - and maintains balance by also having a hard cap, thus not completely delimiting a limited resource. Bond of Blood, finally does the same...but for the ward!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - I noticed no truly glaring glitches and the rules-language is precise and to the point with only precious few minor deviations. Layout adheres to an elegant, nice two look at 2-column standard with a blending of b/w and color artworks in the same, quasi-Minoan paper-cut-ish style, which has evolved nicely over several books - this one's artworks feel fitting and generate a sense of identity for the book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience AND with a printer-friendly version - kudos and great to see this level of consideration.

I wrote this review pretty much how I experienced this book, since I wanted to let you share in the experience as best as I could. There is no doubt in my mind that Morgan Boehringer is one hell of a talented designer...but frankly, I have no idea what happened with these fervor options. When I started reading the intro, the revised fervor mechanics, the reasoning, the alternate balancing options...I was ecstatic. Seriously, I was stoked, pumped. And then my grin slowly turned to disbelief.

I mean, some weird layout glitch must have eaten all minimum level prereqs for the high-level options, right? Alas, there are precious few that sport them. So no dice. The balancing of these options, not only in the context of the class, but also among themselves, oscillates wildly between "mostly flavor" and "OMG, this is insanely good!" - and I frankly can't endorse that. The archetype does explain this, at least a bit - for a non-caster, the power-boost several of them provide is justified. While I really hate the overkill skill-bonuses granted to the ward, it remains a valid divine bodyguard class...and it makes me have this theory that, at one point, a bunch of these options should have been exclusives. Or something like that. I'm grasping for straws here. Anyways, with careful GM oversight to add prerequisites to the fervor options and make the more powerful ones bastion exclusives (with minimum levels), this can be an amazing book.

It has Morgan's creativity. It has panache, generally solid rules and provides a significant breadth of cool options. But I can't rate a book for its potential. And, as you may have noticed, this one's balance is problematic at best. It feels like it had almost become something amazing and instead of fine-tuning the balance of fervor options, it just threw them together. The tools for amazingness are there and if it was properly balanced, this would be my reference for warpriests...but as written, I can't go any higher than 3 stars for it, with both a warning and recommendation for GMs...if you know your rules and think you can balance these, you'll get a fine deal here...otherwise...well, you have been warned.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Warpriest: Zeal
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NeoExodus Campaign Setting (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/09/2016 09:08:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The revised and expanded version of the NeoExodus campaign setting clocks in at a massive 272 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC/KS-thanks and dedication, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 266 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Before we begin this review, let me mention that this book is more than just an expansion of the material we knew from the previous iteration; while, obviously, there are similarities between the previous iteration of the setting and this one, it is pretty apparent from the get-go that the very scope of this book exceeds what we got to know about NeoExodus; for one, the organization of the book makes more sense, at least to me. We begin with the troubled history of this planet and the leitmotifs of NeoExodus, which already set it apart.

You see, NeoExodus' history is one, ultimately, of emancipation, one where the struggle of actually establishing sovereignty for the races of the land was a hard-won process based in significant ways on the exertion of magical or psionic might. The assumption of the setting is that once, the mysterious and evil First Ones (over whom few know anything - and you shouldn't ever believe what anyone's saying), cloaked in mystery and malevolence, lorded as supreme lords over the races. Scientists and arcane theorists, slaving at the behest of these beings, managed to create perhaps one of the coolest concepts I have seen in a fantasy content: They basically made a humanity god-collective; a repository of the most brilliant minds of the age, which was destined to become the facilitator of the defeat of the First Ones and doubles as a kind of extranet, including avatars of its vast knowledge. Instead of lording over the world as a godking, the Kaga retreated - and an age of barbarism and sorceror kings began and battle they did with the psionic ratpeople named cavians. This war of mind and magic broke the backbones of the sorceror kings and Cavian alike, and in the aftermath of the titanic struggle, the seeds of vast nations were sown, as each region spawned different cultures that would develop further. The arrival of the Armans. the free folk, only exacerbated tensions after the khagan had returned and established the Dominion, to forge order out of chaos and similarly, from chaos and intrigue, the mighty Caneus Empire was born. Meanwhile the Sanguine Covenant, the dominant religion of the land, a uniquely cool blend of basically blood magic and Catholicism was on the rise and after the establishment of the Arman Protectorate, it was the Reis Confederacy as the final "super-power" of NeoExodus that forged disparate city states into a powerful nation.

The following years were ones wherein the very world sat on the precipice of disaster more than once, as the massive nations clashed again and again; it would only be a matter of time, before mutually assured destruction would be the only outcome of further feuds and ultimately, the organization of the janissaries and cooler heads ultimately prevailed, resulting in the calendar-changing event dubbed the Unification, creating the Imperial Alliance, basically a kind of United Nations, wherein everyone is eyeing the other nations with suspicion. Beyond a history of almost hot-flaring cold wars and posturing. Tragedies happened and the world continues to teeter back and forth towards full-blown war, as a current change in regents greatly destabilized major players; assassins are on the loose; the senate tried to impose martial law on the empires...and they declined to comply. Elite janissaries have been deployed. The scenario is unquestionably and nastily close to the events that led to WW I, through a lens both fantastic and creative. It's only 91 years AU (After Unification)...and the world needs heroes.

After the extensive history that generates sufficient awareness of the status-quo and what led to it, the book conveniently depicts the unique selling propositions of the setting, and if the above didn't provide ample clue, its general setup is radically different from pretty much every d20-based campaign setting I have ever seen. While NeoExodus is a high fantasy setting, it is not one in line with the traditional medieval status-quo; instead, the very state of the world hearkens closer to the complexities of modern life, the political zeitgeist reflecting more the highly volatile situation of the 20th century. As such, the politics of empires and the options of PCs to influence these introduce a different type of tone, one that also emphasizes espionage and deal-brokering. That being said, NeoExodus is at the same time a world that consequently applies the options that magic would bring to nations; so no, magic is not just a technology stand-in. In spite of it actually fulfilling similar functions, magic manages to retain its unique flavor. The existence of the Nexus Gateways, basically stargates as a means on inter- and extra-planetary travel also means that NeoExodus can, in fact accommodate a ton of home-brew races or uncommon races and influences without much tweaking; no other setting, perhaps apart from Purple Duck Games' Porphyra allows for such an easy and internally consistent way to introduce new races and creatures.

In short, NeoExodus, ultimately, is closer to a "new" type fantasy that gets rid of the traditional Tolkienesque tropes; the unique racial set-up of the world similarly emphasizes this, with none of the player races just reskinning tropes, providing for unique playing experiences beyond what you'd see in pretty much every comparable fantasy setting. The emphasis on consipracies, politics and intrigue is also reflected in the significant amount of information we receive pertaining the cabals of the world: From the brotherhood of the god of murder Khayne to the First Ones, the AMAZING Folding Circle (still one of my favorite NPC-books ever), the phoenix guard, the order of kaga, the sanguine covenant and beyond, there are a lot of movers and shakers to align with, to support or thwart. The return of the cavians with their psionic collective (and thus pretty alien thought-processes - think of Borg minus assimilation) also prompted the exceedingly cool Black Ops magic/psionics-suppressing task force of Section Omega...and have I mentioned the locari, basically Giger-aliens bred by the First Ones, currently thankfully quarantined to an island? Yeah, the massive section alone lets you add a ton of options beyond the respective empires.

And here, the book, beyond the cosmetic renditions of NeoExodus' movers and shakers and visual representations of the cabal's signs, expands significantly, introducing a selection of new government types and settlement qualities for settlements - racial enclaves, asylums...there are some nice expansions here. After this section, we begin taking a closer look at the respective regions, which are set apart by an easy way to establish a character hailing from the region, with character option- advice being provided for the respective regions. The areas actually also influences the proficiencies and languages of the character in question, which is a pretty cool and easy way of establishing a sense of cohesion.

These regions also sport unique threats and hazards - like exatar's shawl, mirage-like clouds of negative energy. Granite storms may ravage the land and in the right (or wrong) circumstances, the echoes of the long-vanquished sorceror kings may be found, feasting on the magical energies of those present. Important movers and shakers generally receive nice, flavorful write-ups and often, cool artworks. While some may be known to fans of NeoExodus, this still remains an art-heavy book, one that sports A LOT of new material. It should also be noted that the book sports several neat pieces of player-friendly, key-less full-color cartography for major cities within the respective regions - with obvious, cultural differences in how they are build and, more often than not, amazing full-color renditions of the cities in question - often highlighting a truly evocative flavor of the region, with obvious aesthetics of utopian science-fiction and post-apocalyptic settings being employed in creative and new manners, adapted and changed. As a whole, the setting ultimately feels fresh in tone and execution.

This uniqueness does extend to the racial options provided herein; if you've read my original review of NeoExodus' first iteration, you'll know that I really like several of the races the setting introduced; at the same time, I originally did complain about some races being more geared towards specific classes. This has been taken care of in a rather interesting manner - you see, each race features several alternate racial traits that often allow for less-specified builds to retain their viability. Power-level wise, the races presented here generally actually manage to hit a concise level, in spite of their unusual natures: There is no race that absolutely exceeds the power-level I'd be comfortable with and the races all fall in the same category, which is approximately on par with aasimar/tiefling - so powerful, but not to the point where they would hamper the mathematical assumptions of modules for the respective levels. This setting also introduces the Android race to NeoExodus, with a slew of new alternate racial options, so yeah, veterans get something novel here. The thought-sensing cavians with their hive mind and option to implant clairvoyance/audience in the targets of their bite via a cool alternate racial option still remain the only ratfolk-iteration I know that I consider on par in terms of coolness with Warhammer's Skaven...so yeah. I like these guys.

The crystalline Cyneans, powerfully build and balanced by susceptibility to force and sonic damage and higher costs for their armor and non-magic equipment do have some unique tricks as well: What about gaining Cha-mod as a deflection bonus to AC after casting a spell, for example? Yeah, powerful...no, can't be cheesed; you get nothing for casting orisons or cantrips...and since it's spell level cast, that also influences the strategy here. The options provided here are strong, yes, but the stronger ones do come with a price. The bestial Enuka are the one race that is lopsided, i.e., that has its racial bonuses solely on the physical side, but considering the flavor of the race, I can kinda live with that...also since their numerous mutations, of which you may choose 2 at character creation, would make for pretty nasty power-gaming options for casters, making that, at least as far as I can see, a conscious balancing decision. The humanoid plants called Dalreans, with their photosynthesis manage to avoid the pitfalls of plant-races and come with some really cool options: Beyond bioluminescence, those struck by lightning may get fire or electricity resistance or heal faster in sunlight (natural healing, mind you - thank the deities!), but as a balancing restrictions, they actually are more susceptible to environmental hazards. The half-giants presented here make for an interesting twist that emphasizes a clan-structure as well as druidism, changing what one would usually expect of them in a nice manner. The Kalisan, civilized versions of the calibans would be the orc-stand-in and are the second race that is lopsided towards the physical aspect of the attribute-array, though, considering the stigma attached to their blood, that ultimately makes the race non-problematic as well. The scholars and arcane polyglots called prymidians have had the benefits of their tentacles changed in an interesting manner - they now can begin play with Lunge, which renders the idea of a smart fighter more viable for a race otherwise more geared toward scholarly pursuits. The feline P'tan with their hatred for the First Ones and shadow-themed abilities are cool - but not even close to the insectoid Sasori: Information brokers, stigmatized by other races...and smart. These guys can analyze opponents and receive poisonous blood...and via alternate racial traits, they may call forth swarms of increasing power or emit a debuff/obscuring gas. They are one of my favorite races for Pathfinder - unique, flavorful and interesting from both a flavor- and a mechanical position.

Also interesting would be the ability sexual dimorphism for tieflings - females and males may choose different racial and alternate racial traits...and you can emphasize your dark heritage further to gain more of the alternate racial traits...which adds a more complex morality to the race. Why? Well, you may detect as a frickin' antipala...but you may also be so gorgeous you can Intimidate an attack to stop and get better healing capabilities...so playing a saint that detects as a malicious knave is indeed encouraged by the abilities provided. From a rules-precision point of view, I was positively surprised to see proper classifications for natural weapons herein, as well as an array of intriguing abilities that transcend in creativity what you usually see for races. The most grievous glitches you'll find here would be "electrical damage" instead of "electricity damage" and similar, mainly cosmetic hiccups. It should also be noted that, in spite of the power of these non-human races, the setting's dominance of humankind still makes it a rather enticing proposition to play humans of the various ethnicities - not only because of the kaga's focus on the race. It should also be noted that we do receive full age, height and weight tables for all races herein.

Beyond notes on the religions of NeoExodus (including domains and favored weapons, but sans obediences etc.), we do receive some nice class options: 8th level alchemists may pressurize splash weapons to increase their splash range; gunslingers not from the protectorate are marked for assassination...oh, and there is a healing alchemist, a dragon-themed barbarian, the arcane cleric of the kaga, Peacekeeper fighter (who replaces armor training and mastery with diligences like religious trances), at-will shield of faith and similar tricks. The Janissary monk would be a psionic monk who may actually stop fighting parties and make for a cool arbiter. The neat machinesmith base class has been integrated into the book (sans the expansions) and we receive a total of 6 PrCs:

-High Guard: Personal guard of the Emperor of Caneus, 5 levels, d10 HD, 4+ Int skills, good BAB, good Fort and Will-save; these are basically an elite bodyguard class. -Imperial Man-at-arms: 5 levels, d10 HD, 4+ Int skills, good BAB, good Fort-save: Non-magical tougher-than-nails elite soldiers with armored Stealth capabilities. -Khalid Asad: Eternal Lions, anti-spellcaster elite assassins of the Dominion. 5 levels, d8 HD, 4+ Int skills, moderate BAB, good Ref and Will-saves; 2 sneak attack progressions. -Panther Warriors: Feline-affine wild-shaping elite of the Reis Confederacy. 5 levels, d10 HD, 2+Int skills per level, full BAB, good Fort and Will-saves. Pouncing death at the cost of spell progression. -Protectorate Artillerist: 5 levels, d8 HD, 6+Int skills per level, medium BAB, good Fort-and Will-saves. Very cool PrC that is extremely deadly against constructs and can call down artillery fire when near a battery. Awesome idea - whip out the big guns without being over-powered. -Wyrdcaster: Spellcasting elite of the Dominion, d6 HD, 2+ Int skills per level, non-standard-saves (with a minor hiccup - 10th level's Ref-save should be +3, not +2), 10 levels, full arcane spell progression, bad BAB. Learns kind of super-meta-magic via talents that is called wyrd and comes at a price.

The book also has, obviously, feats. A TON of them. The table for them alone spans more than 2.5 pages. It is here, that the races of the setting can gain a significant array of customization options; P'tan adding their shadowspark to their unarmed attacks, eat the brains of your vanquished foes to gain temporarily some of their skills, disrupting the use of spell-trigger items, storing spells within a cynean's body...or what about the option to wield spears as double weapons? Yeah, there are some flavorful, nice choices here - and disrupting spell-trigger items, for example is something I had feat-codified in my own game...so yeah, I like being able to do that.

After a massive assortment of spell-lists by level, we do get a bunch of...bingo, spells. This chapter begins with a bang, namely a spell that can, based on concentration, halve an existing non-instantaneous, non-permanent, non-concentration's spell's duration. A sphere that hampers communication, hampering both spellcasting and even item activation based on command words and the like. High-level annigilation of foes, locking shapechangers in their current shape...and there would be the super nasty bloodletting, which lets you execute an untyped damage-dealing attack that also causes nasty bleed...and said bleed accompanied by an effect that basically curses the target to have SR versus healing spells for the duration, making it tough to stop the damage...and cauterization a very real option. Specialist spells available only to specific clerics (or those that dabbled in the forbidden secrets of the First Ones), total sensory deprivation - there are some seriously cool ideas here. The editing of the spells, originally an issue in the previous iteration of the setting, has been improved. As a whole, the options here tend to be on the upper level of the power-scale, but considering the flavor-restrictions imposed n many, I'd generally consider the chapter to be a significant step forwards.

The book also contains a significant array of alchemical items, from smelling salts to stabilization-enhancing wines and instant ropes. Magic item properties alongside specific magic items can be found here as well...oh, and remember the Treasures of NeoExodus-series? Guess what: The items with their extensive back stories can also be found here: Grasscutter, Ichor Sting, Mordant Wrath, Peace & Tranquility, Raindrop and Rampager's Irons are included - for a reason, mind you: These are the gems of the series, the items that reflect the best and most creative it has to offer so far. So yeah, some really detailed gems here. The book also contains easy to use, fully described tomes, with detailed notes on languages employed, benefits gained, current status of the book, etc.

Now NeoExodus obviously also features some unique threats, and thus, the book goes on to depict just that: Arcanebloat template (CR +1) can detonate upon death and receive a chaotic, reactive retribution for being harmed. Alchemists can btw. learn to make these... At CR 4, arcaneslimes get a retributive splashback, emit noxious fumes and feature 2 variants. Aspic creatures ( At CR +1) are basically poisonous. Calibans and their nasty hounds (CR 1/3 and 2), 6-legged feline crystalline cynean-hunters, CR 8 draco-humanoids...some nice critters here. The holocaust and wrath conflict dragons from the excellent Dragons of NeoExodus-pdf are featured here as well. At CR 1, mebers are mischievous fey with a penchant for pyromania and protectorate golems...well, are badass. A total of 4 of them can be found. The Giger-Alien-like Locari and the CR 14 melted flesh ooze (!!!) are neat; the thermal vampires Necryos (CR 4), the needle-firing avians (CR 9) and the sonic-vulnerable CR 3 Razorfiends similarly are nice. The dreaded extraterrestial slave-making oozes called quickslavers get their representation, as do the scythians. A nice section of appropriate monster cohorts, inlcuding stats, complements the section.

After this, we take a look at the "influentials"-chapter - it is here we get the lowest level (and least impressive) iterations of the amazing Folding Circle as well as of the glorious threat that is Cyrix before gaining several helpful statblocks, NPC codex-style, for various beings. Now, I mentioned psionics before, and indeed, the powers of the mind have been an integral part of NEoExodus lore for some time; as such, I very much applaud the inclusion of the previously pretty obscure Psionic Cavian racial variant in the book...oh, and the chapter also features alternate racial traits that tie in with the psionic rules. Favored class options for cavians are included here as well. The Hive Mind Martyr archetype for the vitalist is pretty intriguing: Anyone within his established collective may instead be the recipient of any benevolent effect; granted, I am not a fan of using opposed Will-saves to settle the differences, if any here, but e.g. the option for members of the collective to heal the martyr by touching him, transforming effectively damage into nonlethal damage (you heal and then take nonlethal damage) is VERY interesting...and abuse-proof due to daily cap; indeed Health Sense, as a whole, is improved as well, with the collective gaining interesting options here. Here is the really cool component of the chapter, though: Know how people are suspicious and prejudiced towards powers? Well, in my campaigns, more often than not, people's reactions to magic tends to be pretty much getting the pitchforks ready...and psionics don't fare better. In NeoExodus, there are some nations that REALLY fear these gifts; as such, there are several feats to make the non-subtle tricks of psionics...well, more subtle. Glamered astral suits, nondescript astral constructs, redirecting displays...I love these options. Oh, and there is this one cool swift telepathy-power that allows you to erase one round's actions. Advice on handling psionics in your campaign and different ways to emphasize them can be found before a couple of powers that are linked to the racial flavor - like Dalrean Photosynthesis. 3 psychoactive skins and a the mindlink interrupter represent the items featured in the book.

The chapter's focus on Stealth and subtlety hearkens from the new cabal features herein, the Unseen Hand of the Seventh Order, who can best be envisioned as the anti-Section Omega. They also get a 5-level PrC with +3 Ref-and Will-save progression, moderate BAB, 6 + Int skills, d8 HD and full manifester progression. Basically, these would be the covert-ops psionics guys that try to shield the psionic beings from persecution. With means that emphasize getting away and smart playing, they make for a thematically concise little PrC well in line with the themes of NeoExodus. The psionic amalgam swarm (CR 7) may absorb other swarms, growing in size and potency (OUCH!) and we also receive a CR 12 imprint of the kaga. The phrenic scourge, in its CR 8 iteration, can also be found here.

This is not everything, however - the final chapter of the book is devoted to mythic power on NeoExodus - in the setting, there is a strong disparity between mythic monsters and characters, with only a precious few being chosen by the powers-that-be...or rather, branded, for in NeoExodus, deities brand those chosen. The deity most commonly associated with this practice would be the mysterious Lawgiver, whose Lazarus Brand provides the source of the mythic power of the character in question...but at the same time, this does mean that it can be suppressed...a noteworthy and required drawback, considering the significant powers the brand bestows. The pdf also features a significant assortment of mythic iterations of feats featured herein and we conclude the book with fluff-only notes on some known ascended as well as an array of mythic versions of spells featured within this book.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good as far as I'm concerned - there are instances of a word missing here and there; you can find minor glitches like "electrical" instead of electricity and untyped damage that should be typed. That being said, these glitches do not, as a whole, botch the rules-language and don't wreck the generally evocative prose herein. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous two-column standard. The book's artworks are absolutely glorious; fans of NeoExodus may know some from previous books, but there are actually more new ones herein, some of which rank among the best the setting has featured. The pdf-version sports copious, nested bookmarks, making navigation simple. The cartography for the cities herein is excellent, though I wished we got 1-page-hand-out versions. I cannot comment on the physical version of the book, since I do not own it.

This is the work of a lot of people: Neal Bailey, Thomas Baumbach, Clinton Boomer, J.P. Chapleau, Joshua Cole, Richard Farrese, Lee Hammock, Marc D. Irvin, Jeff Lee, Owen K.C. Stephens, Christopher Alaniz, Andrew Balenko, Thomas Bell, Santiago Delgado, Richard Goulart, Marc Irvin, Kevin A. Shaw, Kary Williams and Louis Porter Jr. It is thus pretty surprising in how holistic the whole campaign setting feels; this is a very sensible, unique world steeped in high fantasy; a world that feels distinct.

Now the question for fans of NeoExodus, at least partially, will be whether to get this, in light of some overlap with previous publications. The reply to this inquiry would be a resounding "Yes" - the revised iteration of NeoExodus is superior in every way to the previous iteration, and it features a significant amount of new content, much of which is exceedingly evocative and fun. I was pretty positively surprised to note the fact that this is not just a compilation of previously released material; instead, we receive an impressive assortment of new information. More importantly, this version of NeoExodus feels more like a big, concise campaign setting - we simply have more information, more space to make the setting come alive.

There is another aspect I feel I should mention. I've been using NeoExodus files for several years now and they have a pervasive habit of creeping into my games; I often talk about idea-scavenging, but ultimately, more so than in many comparable settings, NeoExodus' concepts, organizations and critters have made their way into my game. Quite probably, this is at least partially due to the massive assortment of novel ideas and their execution. This book portrays a fantasy world that stretches the meaning of fantasy; a setting that is a breath of fresh air for everyone, regardless of system, who is tired of Tolkienesque fantasy. While the execution of rules-operations herein is significantly better than in the previous version of the setting, it is ultimately the ideas that represent the capital, the unique selling propositions of the setting.

After having read a ton of fantasy settings, I can attest to this being pretty much the antithesis of generic fantasy and, by virtue of its ideas, a book of great value, even if you do not intend to use the setting at all. In fact, the book contains several races I'd consider to rank among my favorites available. So yeah, this is well worth getting for the fair asking price, even if you already have all the other NeoExodus material. The campaign setting's increased page-count and expanded material help form this into a concise whole and I found myself pleasantly surprised to read the new psionic material, which provides a perfect counterbalance to Section Omega. How to rate this, then? While not perfect (no book of this size is), the campaign setting as presented here is an awesome book well worth having for the ideas alone. The original NeoExodus setting, in spite of its flaws, made my Top Ten at that year, in spite of its flaws and by virtue of its concepts...and this, while not perfect, is better in pretty much every way. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars + seal of approval -and I will round up for the purposes of the diverse platforms. With a caveat: If you go into this expecting mechanical perfection, you'll probably consider this more of a 4 or 4.5-star-book; as a reviewer, though, I rate this as a campaign setting and in this regard, it absolutely excels. There is one more aspect to note: Since the original iteration already made my Top Ten list, this one can't make the list again.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
NeoExodus Campaign Setting (PFRPG)
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Everyman Iconics: Shira
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/09/2016 09:05:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Everyman Iconics clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Hej look, it's been one full installment of the series since we had a Kitsune character! Damn time we got another one! ;) Kidding aside, there is a good reason beyond the author loving the race for Shira being up next: Beyond having featured as a character in artworks of Everyman Gaming products before, the black fox Shira was originally the cohort of Kyr'shin Yilenzo, the pretty cool Kitsune featured as the first installment in the series.

Born into a clan of kitsune enslaved by humans, Shiras childhood was anything but nice and when her parents died at a young age and she was taken in by the mtriarch, things did not get better: Where all other kids were taken to new families, her dark complexion was seen as a sign of being touched by the oni and she was shunned, as she was forced into manual labor. By virtues of her talents, she managed to gain tutelage in the art of war, though her sensei was pretty soon executed. Escaping the chopping block, she led her people to freedom...or so she hoped. Instead, they shipwrecked on a jungle-island, where they were prey for the nasty cyclopes living there - it is here she gained the nickname flamescar for routinely singing her fur to make her undesirable as pelt for the evil giants, all while waging a nasty guerrilla war against the beings - one that only ended by the arrival of Kyr'shin and his group, to who, as a means of thanking them, she professed her loyalty.

Shira employs the heroic NPC wealth and attribute array and utilizes two archetypes, the Kenshi and Scout. Her build does not multiclass, providing a linear progression of the ninja class from level 1 - 20 and, as always, the character's table lists advancements and feats/options chosen and gained at the respective level for your convenience and easy customization. The respective ninja tricks and ninjutsu arts are covered in the progression as well...and while youcould generally use her as written, you'll notice some discrepancies between the base ninja-class and Shiras build.

Well, there is a reason for that, for her build uses Everyman Unchained: Unchained Cunning's Unchained Ninja as the base class. Now thankfully, the pdf does designate all the 3pp-options employed, namely a rogue talent from the superb Ultimate Charisma and A LOT of material from aforementioned Unchained Cunning. The Kenshi archetype can be easily removed...but considering her base class - well, the pdf thankfully acknowledges that making her a normal ninja would basically invalidate the whole build So yeah - it's unchained ninja or bust. It's not a problem as far as I'm concerned, but I still felt obliged to mention that aspect.

Shira's feats are represented and reprinted, as always, and her trait choices are provided for as well: Again, it's Killer (had that with Drake, too) and Life of Toil. Her spell-like abilities are similarly depicted. Now as far as her build is concerned, it makes GREAT use of the unchained ninja framework: Basically, she is a deadly skirmisher/hit-and-run character who can hit HARD when played right. Her focus on generating darkness and soft crows control (as far as getting her) is concerned make her a surprisingly effective build, though yes, my minmaxing friends, you could escalate that. In short, her NPC-builds make for valid challenges for the respective levels and should be fitting for most tables out there.

The pdf, however, does not only feature the NPC-builds; instead, we get three builds for player-wealth (with a landscape format and abilities spelled out, making instant use pretty simple) at level 1, 4 and 7. Here, we somewhat have a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation, for these builds use the regular ninja class with the two archetypes. So if you wanted a pregen unchained ninja...well, then you have to use the NPC as a base. Wealth is level-appropriate, though, once again, no point-buy-scaling advice is provided.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the full-color art provided is neat and consistent. The pregen-versions, as mentioned, are in landscape format instead. The pdf comes with bookmarks, but does not have bookmarks for the respective iterations of the character, which may be considered to be a minor comfort detriment.

Alexander Augunas delivers a cool unchained ninja with Shira and her build, while pretty straightforward, uses the archetypes and unchained ninja framework rather well to generate an ally or adversary well worth facing or fighting with. Her tactics and options make Shira a pretty cool ninja build that gets extra brownie points for not relying on cheesy flurry of stars exploits. While not perfect, the installment can thus be considered to be a well-crafted addition to the series, worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, though I will round up for her, considering that her build is more creative and interesting than what you'd expect from a ninja.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Iconics: Shira
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Mythic Minis 86: Feats of Psychic Magic
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/09/2016 09:04:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal by now, right? 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page content, so let's go!

-Fearsome Spell: Add + tier to the number of rounds affected creatures are shaken on a failed save. Non-mythic adversaries are shaken for 1 round on a successful save, frightened for one round and then shaken on a successful save. Question: Is the round of being frightened on a failed save part of the modified duration of the shaken condition? Clarification would be nice here.

-Furious Spell: Add +3 times the spell's level to the damage inflicted as well as +1/2 mythic tier to concentration to cast such a spell while raging. Creatures failing their save take a -2 penalty to saves versus [emotion] spells (excluding fear) for spell-level rounds. The penalty increases to -4 when the spell deals with anger, hatred or compelling creatures to attack others.

-Hidden Presence: + mythic tier to saves versus non-mythic spells this feat protects against. Here, we have a strange wording hiccup: "This penalty is reduced to one-half your mythic tier (min 1) against mythic spells of those types." That's supposed to be "bonus", I think. When using the surge die for such a save, you may also roll the surge die twice, taking the better result.

-Intrusive Presence: When using detect thoughts on the host, you become fluent in 1/2 mythic tier, up to Int-mod languages. You also add 1/2 mythic tier to the times you can use seek thoughts. You may expend two uses of seek thoughts to instead use dream scan, mind probe or sow thought, though these retain their saves. Very cool!

-Intuitive Spell: You may cast personal-range intuitive spells even while dazed, fascinated, stunned or subject to a mind-affecting effect, as a full-round action. You may use one mythic power to cast a spell as intuitive sans preparing it in advance, increasing casting time or spell slot/level.

-Logical Spell: Allows you to target a creature with a logical spell sans line of sight, provided you know the square it's in. Competence and insight bonuses to AC and saves are ignored by the logical spell. For one mythic power, you may prepare a logical spell sans preparing it in advance, increasing casting time or spell slot/level.

-Manipulative Presence: Alter or erase up to 10 minutes per tier of the target's memories; alternatively, 1 minute per tier, with the target being forced to save twice and take the worse result. This double roll only affects the memory alteration. If you possess a non-mythic creature with HD less than your tier, its memory of you possessing it is erased even on a successful save. This can let you weave very intricate plots indeed. Like it!

-Scarring Presence: Apply the feat to any mind-affecting spell; when used in conjunction with [fear] or [emotion]-spells, the penalties are doubled. If the [fear/emotion]-spell's mythic, the target takes a penalty to saves and thereafter suffers a penalty of -1 versus such spells for mythic tier minutes.

-Traumatic Spell: Apply the feat to any mind-affecting spell; when used in conjunction with [fear] or [emotion]-spells, the target must continue to save until it successfully saves on 2 consecutive nights and the save DC only decreases by 1 per night. If the feat is applied to a mythic emotion or fear spell, creatures failing the save are affected by mythic nightmare and non-mythic creatures must save on 3 consecutive nights to get rid of the effect.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not as good as in most installments of the series. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two column full-color standard and it features the artwork on the cover; that's it - the one page content is solely devoted to crunch. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jason Nelson's Feats of Psychic Magic generally are well-crafted, evocative and offer some neat upgrades. At the same time, there are a couple of minor wording hiccups, one of which is rules-relevant. In spite of that, I still consider this a worthwhile purchase, if perhaps not as amazing as in some other mythic minis. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 86: Feats of Psychic Magic
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Mythic Minis 85: Medium, Psychic, and Spiritualist Feats
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/09/2016 09:01:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the deal by now, right? 4 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial (contains one feat), 1page blank (slightly odd), 1 page content - so let's go!

-Disciplinary Devotee: Increase feat bonus to +2; expend mythic power to increase the bonus by 1/3 tier and "increase the save DC for spells you cast from your discipline for 1 minute." - By how much? The additional amount (i.e. 1/3rd mythic tier)? This one's wording could be slightly more precise.

-Distant Delivery: +5 ft. times mythic tier touch spell delivery for the phantom.

-Emotional Conduit: Spells gained by the feat take effect at +1 CL and increase their save DC by 1. Beneficial spells cast on the phantom are extended and the spells gained can be cast as mythic spells.

-Expanded Phrenic Pool: +2 pool points. You may also exchange mythic power for phrenic pool points on a 1:1-basis.

-Extra Amplification: +1 phrenic amplification every time you take the non-mythic version. Alternatively, exchange both amplifications for a major amplification for which you qualify.

-Focused Phantom: Increase concentration bonus granted by the phantom by +1/2 mythic tier. When adjacent to the phantom and failing a concentration check, you may reroll for the cost of expending mythic power, adding + surge die as a bonus. After such a reroll, the phantom merges with your consciousness, though.

-Phantom Fighter: Phantom gains its Cha-mod as deflection bonus to AC and as a bonus to atk versus incorporeal creatures. When the phantom is attacked by an incorporeal adversary, you may expend mythic power as an immediate action to grant it a dodge bonus to AC equal to surge die, lasting until the end of the next turn and applying only against incorporeal creatures. Touch spells delivered by the phantom versus incorporeal creatures take full effect and it also may score crits versus incorporeal and amorphous foes. Nice power-upgrade.

-Phantom Fortification: +5% per mythic tier chance of ignoring crits and precision damage in ectoplasmic form; if the phantom is adjacent to you, you may expend mythic power to decrease a critical hit versus the phantom down to a regular hit.

-Shared Soul: Bonus increases to +4 and you may shed mythic tier negative levels. before the stress suppresses your phantom. You also may expend one use of mythic power to shunt a death, possession or negative level effect to the phantom when it's within 30 feet. Absorbing a death/possession merges the phantom with the spiritualist's consciousness.

-Spiritualist's Call: Grant the phantom +2 t Str, Dex and Cha for 1 minute per tier when summoning it. Alternatively, only grant +2 to one of them, but have the benefit last 10 minutes per tier.

-Vigilant Phantom: Add +1/2 mythic tier to the Perception bonus granted; additionally, when you or the phantom are flanked, you may expend one use of mythic power as an immediate action to grant yourself and the phantom all-around vision for 1 minute, but you may only do this when adjacent to the phantom.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two column full-color standard and it features the artwork on the cover; that's it - the one page content is solely devoted to crunch. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jason Nelson's array of feats for the medium, psychic and spiritualist are well-crafted, no doubt, My favorite design decision herein, hands down, is that several of the feats reward the spiritualist keeping the phantom close, as opposed to sending it forth. The decision to do that can modify the actual playing experience in interesting ways and makes particularly the spiritualist more intriguing. At the same time, the mythic feats herein often provide pretty straight enhancements when compared to e.g. the installment covering occultist and kineticist, making it less complex in its ramifications. Hence, I will settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform, with one caveat: Mythic spiritualist may assuredly need this little pdf!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 85: Medium, Psychic, and Spiritualist Feats
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Villain Codex II: Adversaries for Advanced Heroes
Publisher: Outland Entertainment
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/08/2016 02:53:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Villain Codex-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page of introduction, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this pdf with Evetta Laxley, a changeling dreamweaver witch, running an inn as a front for her nefarious operations. Solid one. Ferracyr would be a metal elementalist wizard...but he actually is a venerable elf, which is an interesting twist on what you'd expect - and yes, the ancient pioneer has schemes to prolong his life in nasty ways...but may his mind perhaps even warrant it? Interesting angle!

Speaking of interesting: Nagasorko the Unblinking would e a nagaji mesmerist (a natural fit in concepts), his operations include raids on the nearby settlements and operating a diamond mine...and considering implanted suggestions etc., I can envision a complex escape scenario here...nice. Bimsen Malfilex, a tiefling skald raised by traveling musicians when the black-skinned child was expelled from his family, has sworn to bring the cultural elite down and make them see the error of their ways for flaunting him.

Rhikka Verminclaw, the ratfolk preservationist/vivisectionist featured on the cover is not only build-wise one of the most interesting characters in the series so far, her quest for vengeance after the holocaust of her family to "better the city", she actually has very understandable motivations for her grisly handiwork... The halfling unchained summoner Julia "Foxglove" Apalla was once a greengrocer's girl...until she inadvertently smashed a figurine in a wizard's workshop, unleashing a powerful outsider, who promptly slew the wizard and became the eidolon (sparing her due to her apples - nice nod towards Death Note). It, and Ferrycyr's shield guardian, btw., can be found in the book as well. Similarly, an alternate elemental form, a doppelganger simulacrum...pretty amazing supplemental statblocks here.

Professor Laeroth Rydel is an interesting occultist: First, he is a dhampir...secondly, he has unearthed the robes of famous necromancer Shaf-Ka-Sar and now behaves like the necromancer...is he possessed, has he gone off the deep end...or was he always waiting to snap? The GM decides. Gordakash Saltenclaw would be a cleric of Dagon, a dwarf in league with the clawed forces of the deep. Lucretia Tropin, a famous investigator who dresses the part, is amazing, for she, in fact, doubles as a serial killer - seriously cool angle for a battle of wits!

Rayri Shaden is an interesting twist on the shadowdancer - he actually is a fighter/shadowdancer multiclass, complete with heavy armor! Nice twist here! Madison Grand, an old elven psychic of considerable power, has plotted the downfall of the elves that exiled her.

And here is a unique adversary: Hanne Bullard is an oathbound paladin. No, not antipaladin. A paladin.She has instigated martial law to uphold civilization and order - and her measures are a slippery slope, well-intentioned though they may be.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features a great b/w-artwork for each of the adversaries herein. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Phoebe Harris, Steve Johnson, Mikko Kallio, D.L. Loutzenhiser, Luis Loza, James McTeague, Matt Morris, Rep Pickard, Stephen Stack, Robert Thomson, Christopher Wasko and Nicholas Wasko, with development by Mikko Kallio and Jacob W. Michaels, have delivered a cool collection of adversaries here. The respective villains certainly are high concept and interesting, with my favorites being the ratfolk alchemist as well as the investigator - but as a whole, each of the villains has something cool going on and build-wise, they are pretty neat as well. In the end, this pdf leaves not much to be desired and thus clocks in at a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Villain Codex II: Adversaries for Advanced Heroes
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Places of Power: Penitent's Rest
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/08/2016 02:51:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Penitent's Rest, also known as Alikandra Lat, is a remote wilderness temple, named after a paladin seduced to the side of evil, who journeyed to this far-away place to atone for her sins. To this day, the temple is the goal of repentant pilgrims seeking redemption - and it is said, as mentioned in the lore provided, if the PCs do their research, that the paladin's spirit still shows herself to those praying at her cenotaph, sometimes possessing willing supplicants for quests of utmost importance.

This would btw. be one of the 6 events provided and, as often, whispers and rumors are provided. As a pilgrimage site, it only makes sense that there is a fluctuating array of people coming through, with a total of 11 penitents coming with fluffy write-ups - and each one can act as both dressing and as a further adventure hook. It should also be noted that the pdf sports brief notes on the daily life at this place, as well as full stats of aforementioned ex-paladin ghost alongside extended NPC-info: I.e. with appearance, distinguishing features, mannerisms, etc. A detailed account of her fall has similarly been provided for the GM's convenience.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to RSP's elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf features some nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes in two iterations, one optimized for screen-use and one made for the printer - kudos there! The cartography by Simon Butler and Dyson Logos is very good. I think by joining Raging Swan Press' patreon, you can actually get the high-res map for the evocative place, but I am not 100% sure. The map provided in the pdf is cool, but sports keyed rooms.

Jacob W. Michaels' Penitent's Rest is a nice place of sanctuary you can easily drop in just about any wilderness environment; it makes for a nice, easily inserted location with some solid options for crafting further adventures from. At the same time, the location, while easily inserted in just about any context, also, by virtue of its more general theme, doesn't make for a strong anchor; it's more a place to pass through or to catch one's breath in the deadly wilds and does that job well. Still, personally, I didn't get that much out of the place - I can and literally have made such a location myself before.

My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars - experienced GMs may wish to round down, while time-starved GMs should round up. In the end, I believe a unique angle could have helped the location and provide a proper unique selling proposition...you know, loci, unique enchantments, the like. Hence, my final verdict will round down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Penitent's Rest
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